In Bangkok people primarily speak Thai and a large portion of the population also speaks another major language such as English, Chinese and Japanese. All three of these languages are major languages of commerce in Thailand. However, I’m fairly certain that there are many more languages being spoken in this megatropolis of ours.
On my way home on Friday, I was stuck in front of the Loatian Embassy long enough to notice the sign on the fence of the embassy fence. It was a trilingual sign featuring Loatian, Thai and English. I chuckled at myself as I have a particular fondness for signs and I’m forever seeing humorous signs in the Land of Smiles. This sign was not intriguing because of a mistake or interesting saying, instead it was the comparison between the Loatian and Thai languages that can be made when you see the two languages written side by side.
In the sign the Loatian part is on the left and the Thai part is on the right. Based on what the English part says below, I assume that the sign says “Embassy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic” or the equivalent in all three languages. Since I have some basic Thai reading skills, I tried to compare the Thai part to what I saw in the Loatian part and I noticed that the script was similar. The common basis for the written aspect for both languages, Sanskrit, is evident except that the Loatian writing appears to be more curvy and loopy than the Thai writing. I’m not sure if this is due to the particular fonts used on the sign or a feature of all Loatian writing. Additionally, some of the characters look different or are used differently, but many of the characters are quite similar. Lastly, Loatian seems to have fewer abbreviations than Thai.
Sometimes it can be difficult to read Thai if you are unaware of the character reductions that sometimes appear or if you are not sure which characters together make a particular sound. In Loatian, there seems to be less of this problem as the vowels are not reduced and are still written where in Thai they would be absent. There also seems to be fewer character choices so that the same sound may only have one character to express it, unlike Thai were the “t” sound could be a few different characters.
Disclaimer: This is just my observations from this sign and I do not claim to be a linguist.